We know that when it comes to waterside leisure in KZN, people’s minds automatically go to the miles of sandy beaches along our beautiful coastline. But the don’t fooled. The coast hasn’t got the inland all beat. Nope. We’re talking about high-octane water sports, fabulous fishing, secluded strolls and peaceful picnics at the water’s edge. You can beat the crowds and the heatstroke by abandoning the crammed coast and heading towards the waters of the Natal Midlands.
If you don’t have a childhood memory that involves paddling in the shallows of Midmar Dam wearing a cut out cozzie and getting a wicked pre-sunscreen burn while the folks sizzle some chops and wors over the coals, then it’s never too late to correct this oversight.
Midmar Dam (footage: Bonte, 2019) lies just outside the Midlands town of Howick and it’s been the scene of boating, braaiing and bobbing in the water ever since it opened in 1965.
Although this stretch of water is synonymous with the open water swim event - the Midmar Mile there’s plenty of other exciting pastimes on offer. According to Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, you can do just about anything water related.
There are zoned areas for powerboats, yachts and skiing, if you feel the need for speed and the wind in your hair. Head to the onsite boat shop to hire windsurfers, canoes or yachts to take out onto the water. You can, of course, swim in the dam, but be sure to stay well away from the powerboat zones!
Bit nippy for full submersion? No worries, you can lay out a picnic along the grassy banks or set up a braai at one of the numerous built-in facilities. There’s also cycling and walking trails for shore side traverses through the nature reserve for you landlubbers.
Finally, you have the opportunity to concoct the wildest fishing tales. The dam is stocked with carp, bass, scalies and bluegills. Be legit; grab your freshwater licence from the office on your way though.
The Midlands is, quite literally awash in waterfalls. Best visited after the area has had a bit of rain, these cascades form picturesque back drops for picnics and Instagram worthy snaps. There are small cascades and infant waterfalls all along the waterways of the Midlands, but in this post we’re going to cover the two biggest.
First up is Karkloof Falls (footage: Britz, 2017). A dizzying 105 metre cascade that, despite its height, is relatively unknown in comparison to its neighbouring waterfall. Situated on Sappi plantation land, this spot is kitted out with picnic and braai facilities beneath the shady trees beside the water’s edge.
It’s closed during the fire season, so be sure to check out opening before packing that picnic basket.
16km down the road from Karkloof is it’s better known neighbour, Howick Falls (footage: Day, 2018). Plunging 95 metres into a pool said to be the abode of the giant serpent monster, the Falls is rich in lore and legend.
As a popular tourist destination, you’ll find a well-constructed viewing platform and an arts and crafts market onsite. At Howick Falls you can head out for a hike up to the top, or even, if you’re feeling feisty, take the opportunity to abseil or rock climb beside the thundering falls.
If fishing’s your game, well then you’re in luck. You don’t have to stir from from the comfort of your accommodation to enjoy the onsite fishing facilities. We have the dam on Brahman Hills, stocked with bass and ready for your rod. Or you could drop a line in at Springholm dam where you can try your hand at catching trout. Folks are welcome to bring along their canoes to Springholm and take them out onto the water to fish. The local Wildfly shop in Nottingham Road sells anything you could possibly want and you don’t need a licence to fish on our reserve. You can also hire our fishing expert - who’ll take you out on a private fishing journey. Now that’s fishing in style!
Even if reeling it in isn’t on the cards, you can still enjoy a picnic by the waterside. Keep an eye out for our abundant water fowl and wildlife while you are there, soak up the natural serenity and snaps some pics for your profile. Then it’s an easy meander back to your rooms - low hassle and very relaxing. Just the way the Midlands was meant to be enjoyed!
In the heart of its own meandering tourist route called the Albert Amble is the Albert Falls Dam. Run by Msinsi Resorts and Reserves, this dam was constructed in 1976 and boasts a 33 metre high wall. But what it’s really famous for is bass fishing. There’s also a chance of catching carp, barbel and tilapia. Designated areas are set aside for shore fishermen, or take out your craft of choice and head for the open water.
The dam is large enough to allow wake-boarding and water-skiing, canoeing and windsurfing. But according to their website, with so much fast-paced action on the waterways, there’s no swimming allowed.
Once you’ve worked up an appetite after all that action, there’s the waterside picnic spots with some residents zebra and buck on parade.
With Brahman Hills as your base, all of these water wonderlands are easy to access and enjoy before heading back to your luxury accommodation along the Midlands Meander’s scenic routes.
The next time you hear the siren call of the water, don’t follow the crowds to the beach. Try something a little more adventurous, a little more off the trampled track, and head to the Natal Midlands to discover a new way to enjoy KZN waters.